ethno – whats?

January 28, 2010 § Leave a comment

Ethnophaulism is a rather ugly word for a rather ugly concept – the ethnic slur. While the actual terms that an ingroup can use to denigrate an outgroup cane be sourced from features of the target culture’s appearance, dress -towelhead/raghead – a pejorative reference to Arab and Asian cultures, cuisine – les rosbif/rosbeef is the French anglophobe’s term for the English, I am interested in etnophaulisms that derive from personal names (see this post about Hori)

Here is a random selection of personal names that have become ethnophaulisms. Can you name the ethnic group denigrated?

  • Paddy Charlie Ann Taffy Dago
  • Does it help that Taffy is derived from the name Daffyd or David, and Dago comes from Diego.

    A current ethnnophaulism receiving a lot of attention in the media is guido, a reference to a particular kind of young Italian American. That is, all Guidos and Guidettes(!) present and Italian American identity but not all Italian American identities are Guidos. MTV’s shreality show Jersey Shore is an inside look at that this group:

    The reaction to the show has been extremely interesting many in the Italian American feeling offended by the representions offered by these self-proclaimed Guidos.

    The identity performances has many features, the tanning, the clothes, the sociality and the language. Here’s a (probably ot very long lasting link) to the New York Times on Language and the Guido identity


    the f word

    January 27, 2010 § 1 Comment

    I kinda like his voice.
    As anyone who has completed 131 Language and Culture I find taboo words extremely interesting. This charming youtube in the style of an old fashioned youtube is nicely demonstrates the category flexibility of the so-called f-word … noun, verb, infix and the wide range of meanings it produces.
    Word of advice … no need to take up his challenge at the end!

    ok so I watch a lot of telly

    January 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

    Tonight’s episode of My name is Earl includes the line “Why are you so gay for space?”

    “Gay for X” is apparently a relatively interpretable construction for some speakers of English. To be gay for something doesn’t imply homosexuality as the line above suggests, but indexes an unreasonable passion or obsession (possibly for an inappropriate target)  in the eyes of the speaker.

    So you can be gay for anything, well at least be accused of it. It is interesting that gay seems to be morphing fast in its semantics. For younger speakers soon, an overtly sexuality-based meaning may not be its primary meaning. (Those of you with access to the Massey Library Have a look at Lalor & Rendle Short (2007), That’s so gay: a contemporary use of gay in Australian English. The Australian Journal of Linguistics, (27), 2, 147-173.

    Current expressions ‘X is so gay’ where X does not = a homosexual identity need not be [+human] at all – Shortland St is so gay right now …

    Interestingly, according to the urban dictionary – the slang wiki there is a variant for gay for expresssion that derives from a typo. This variant to be gar for seems strongly linked to a male target:
    1. To like a male character or individual for being a cool, powerful badass.

    Derived from a typo (‘gar’ instead of ‘gay’) on 4chan’s /a/nime image board when referring to Archer from the H-game and anime series “Fate Stay Night”.
    “I’m gar for Archer.”
    “Of course. Everyone’s gar for Archer.”

    gay but not in a ‘trap’ sort of way in love with obsessed with or would probably like to be
    by Ryukage May 2, 2006
    2. gar
     A term used towards male characters and individuals who are so overwhelmingly manly that your own masculinity is absolutely *buried*, leaving you naught but a whimpering, swooning girl-child before them.

    Originated in 4chan’s /a/ board. A poster was describing his feelings towards the Fate/Stay Night character Archer, and mistyped “gay” as “gar”.
    “Episode 14 left me totally gar for Archer.”
    “You are gar for badasses, but gay for traps.”

    Urban Dictionary

    gASLee or ghastly?

    January 22, 2010 § 1 Comment

    Oh the irony

    Not long after posting on the poetics of signed languages, the hit American show GLEE gets in on the act … or does it.

    Tonight’s episode included a deaf choir performing Imagine … the Lennon classic. That’s nice, I thought, giving room for bilingualism on the show …

    Charming isn’t it? until the regular stars are inspired to join in. The hegemony of English takes over, and the star kids are up there belting it out sentimentally reducing the ASL choir to a charming backdrop. And then! And then suddenly the star kids magically acquire ASL as if it wasn’t a complex language but some kind of obvious mimetic charade kinda game.

    At least one of the commentors on youtube sees this side of things:


    i thought the glee cast or whatever ruined the song! like the deaf people were signing it and the one guy was saying it, and then the glee kids had to start singing it! they pretty much stole the spotlight. i thought it was messed up!

    place that name? Name that place?

    January 22, 2010 § Leave a comment

    Here’s some interesting soundbites about NZ toponymy from Radio New Zealand .

    the poetics of asl and NZSL anthem

    January 18, 2010 § 4 Comments

    First off, a common myth to dispell:

    Deaf Poetry- an oxymoron?
    The term oxymoron is typically used to mean “a contradiction in terms”. In poetry, an oxymoron occurs when two seemingly opposite words are combined to create a specific tone or effect within the poem. Examples of this would be terms such as: a silent scream, a happy demise, fiery ice, and sweet sorrow. Combining opposites create a more dramatic and heightened tone to a given poetic image.

    When we think of the definition of poetry, we think of words put together by sounds. Poetry is often defined by the rhythm, meter, and flow of the words as they are read. This being said, would the term Deaf Poetry be an oxymoron? Unable to hear the flow of words or understand the rhythmic flow of speech, could someone who is completely deaf be able to produce poetry?

    Who says signed languages don’t have rhythm, flow or meter? Who says you can’t rhyme in a signed language?

    Understandably we might think these terms are restricted to the analysis and poetry of spoken language, but this is  not the case. Phonology – usually defined as the study of a the sound system of a given language – has long been recognised as a valid layer of linguistic analysis of signed languages such as American Sign Language (ASL) or New Zealand Sign Language.

    The basic analysis of a segmant or phone in spoken language relies, in the case of consonants, with investigating the place of articulation, manner and voicing.  As any graduate of a phonetics class will be able to tell you, /p/ the first sound in ‘plate’ is a voiceless, bilabial stop.  The three term label is enough to idenitfy this sound as being made by blocking the air at the lips (bilabial) and releasing it (making it a stop) without vibration of the vocal cords.

    Deaf phonology has been described as relying on four terms to create a definition of a hand shape:

    • handshape
    • orientation – how the hand is held in space, i.e. flat, palm up etc?
    • place  of articulation
    • movement – repeated, direction, finger wiggle etc

    Just as the places of articulation in spoken languages are numerous – bilabial, labiodental, alveolar, palatal, uvular, glottal, so too are there numerous articulators in signed languagesm – the head, the lips, fingers etc.

    Location is with reference to the signing space. There is a neutral default signing space in front of the signer – movement …seen as in intrinsic part of the phonology of sign can move that sign out of that space or indicate the movement of the articulators within the neutral space … i.e.,  finger waggling in the neutral space is still classified as movement.

    Here are a few examples. The picture below represents a handshap refered to as ASL-1 the digit ‘one’ is one of its meanings,

    Moving this hanshape from the neutral signing space up to the signer’s forehead produces the verb THINK.  Leave it in the neutral space but waggle the finger and you have produced WHERE (

    If signed languages have ap honology as discussed briefly above, then signed poetry should be able to make use of the same features of phonology exploited by spoken language poetry. 

    Some researchers have suggested different types of rhyme in ASL poetry for example, based on repeated handshapes – presumably the same handshape at different locations or undergoing different movements are a type of rhyme – handshape rhyming, movement rhymes – different handshapes undergoing the same movement.

    Here is an ASL poet Jon Savage with a few poems in his language … I think it is clear they have different rhythms and meters:
    Cynde’s art
    lotus t’shirt

    For those of you more familiar with New Zealand Sign Language or with the New Zealand National Anthem, the following youtube vid amply demonstrates rhythm!

    anaphora – you know you love them

    January 14, 2010 § Leave a comment

    Linguistics can make you money!

    Essex university is asking for help identifying anaphoric relations. Anaphora are expressions that get their meaning from elsewhere. Pronouns and reflexives are the classic anaphora:

    • John said that Bob loved him.
    • John said that Bob loved himself.

    In the first example, the pronoun him can refer to John, but cannt refer to Bob. Conversely, himself, the reflexive in the second example can only refer to Bob. The way these two different types of anaphora work, i.e., what are the structural relations between an anaphor and its antecedent or reference giver has been a major field of inquiry in syntax. This question inspired Chomsky and for a while lent its name to his theory  – government and binding.

    You don’t need to know what Principle A of the Binding Theory – A reflexive must be bound in its governing category – to make a little money …

    To celebrate its first year year of being online, Phrase Detectives:

    a game-with-a-purpose designed to gather data about anaphora, announces a
    $500 New Decade competition aimed at creating the world’s largest
    collection of anaphorically annotated data.

    Modern statistical methods for natural language interpretation require
    hundreds of thousands of examples of language interpretation. But creating
    such large amounts of data takes a very long time if done by a handful of
    people. Web collaboration is a potential solution to this dilemma. In
    particular, ‘games with a purpose’ like ESP have been used to label great
    amounts of data as a byproduct of the activities of people playing such
    games on the Web. Phrase Detectives, a game with a purpose for anaphoric
    annotation developed at the University of Essex, has already collected more
    than 700,000 examples of anaphoric annotation.

    To celebrate the first year of being online, the developers of Phrase
    Detectives are launching a competition to complete the annotation of the
    first one million words of text, the largest collection of anaphoric data
    for English in the world. To encourage participation, Phrase Detectives are
    offering big cash prizes for the top players in January. If you are the
    highest scorer on January 31st you will win the top prize of $500. We put
    together a collection that includes around 600,000 words of fiction (from
    “Alice in Wonderland” to “Sherlock Holmes”) and around 600,000 words of
    text from Wikipedia. The data will be made publicly available through LDC
    and the Anaphoric Bank,

    For more information, visit or contact:

    Massimo Poesio –
    Jon Chamberlain –
    Udo Kruschwitz –

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